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Teri to help steer Mumbai Metropolitan Region towards sustainable growth

MUMBAI: The Energy and Resource Institute(Teri) has launched an environmental assessment programme for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region — the first of its kind in the country's financial capital — that is expected to help steer it toward more sustainable growth. 

The Mumbai Metropolitan Area, which consists of seven major municipal corporations, has grown rapidly and randomly mainly at the cost of green cover. 

Experts and officials say Teri's environmental assessment will help correct this. The assessment, titled 'Environmental Status Report of Mumbai Metropolitan Region', will provide information on the region's vital resources — air, water, land use and its changing patterns, and biodiversity — and will be used as guides for Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's (MMRDA's ) infrastructure development plan, which is prepared once every 20 years. "This assessment will help frame policies to cope with the current gaps in data available about the quality of various natural resources," a senior MMRDA official, who did not wish to be named, told ET. 

Teri and MMRDA declined comment on the release date of the report, for which data collection is in its first phase. "This kind of a report is essential to understand the city's performance and will help in the sustainable development of the city in the coming years," said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of Mumbai-based Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), which is working with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on the advocacy of the city's Development Plan 2014-34. 

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which consists of seven major municipal corporations — Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan-Dombivali, Vasai-Virar, Mira-Bhayandar, Bhiwandi-Nizampur and Ulhasnagar — is among the top 10 most populated urban clusters in the world. As per central government guidelines, the ideal open space ratio in any urban area should be 11 sq m per person. 

For Mumbai, which has a population of over 12 million, 
the situation is far from ideal. UDRI's Joshi said the city's current development plan considers only 0.9 sq m of open space per person. 

Over the past few years, Mumbai has seen infrastructure and housing growth at the expense of its open spaces, mainly gardens, playgrounds, parks and mangroves. The city's total green cover has shrunk to about 18 per cent from a decade ago. Of this, the mangrove cover has reduced by about 40 per cent, said Rashneh Pardiwala, founder and director of Centre for Environmental Research and Education. "One major reason for Mumbai's depleting green cover is the ever growing population, with a steep demand for land for housing and all infrastructure that accompanies housing schemes," said Pardiwala. 

While use of land for industrial, residential and commercial purposes in the city grew from 27,368.3 hectares in 2008-09 to 29,739 hectares in 2011-12, the growth in its green cover was only 12 hectares between March 2009 and March 2012 to 236.19 hectares. In Navi Mumbai, which is second to Mumbai in terms of 
spread, the percentage of available land allocated to infrastructure has increased from 50.79 per cent in 2002-03 to 60.79 per cent in 2012-13. "All the space that is available is given to builders, and when some infrastructure is to be built, then the government agencies look at developing on the open space," said Debi Goenka of the Mumbai-based Conservation Action Trust. 

Similarly, Thane — the third largest urban area in the metropolitan region — has seen more than 120per cent increase in the number of commercial establishments between 2009 and 2012. "Thane is one of the rapidly growing suburbs in Mumbai. People migrate to Thane for its affordable housing," Teri associate director Anjali Parasnis said, adding that encroachment on any kind of open space should be prevented. The pollution levels in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane have increased, too, largely because of the fast disappearing green cover.